I would like to begin by telling about my travels to Iasi, Romania, where I will be living for the next three months while I volunteer at a local orphanage. I remember very little from my first flight from SLC to JFK. I fear that I slept the whole way with my head up next to the window. As I waited for my second flight I noticed that many Hasidic Jews were also waiting for my flight in addition to a small group of people speaking Romanian. As I started talking to the Romanian group and found they were also Jews. I'm not going to lie this made me very excited because I have been researching the Jewish population in Romania this past semester. The first thing she asked me was if I was Jewish. I quickly said that my grandma was Jewish and she became very excited while stating that meant I was Jewish. I did not have the heart to tell her that in all actuality I was not really Jewish because my grandmother's mother was not a Jew but I did not have it in me to take away her obvious excitement. So I smiled and said I guess that does mean I am Jewish. This in turn made her granddaughter, Rebecca, very excited who started asking me dozens of questions while inviting me to come visit my homeland of Israel where they lived. I loved it! I felt so welcome. She insisted that I call the Jewish missionary in Iasi when I get there, so I could rekindle my lost faith. It made me smile realizing how very similar people of faith are.
On my actual flight to Vienna I was, as always, sitting in the very middle middle of the plane. But to my great delight I was sitting next to the littlest oldest grandma with a German accent that I have ever seen, her name was Stella. Stella was on her way to a Holocaust memorial service commemorating 70 years since the start of the holocaust in Vienna, her home. She was asked to both participate in the service and speak at about a dozen other appointments. I loved sitting by her because I got to help her with physical things while she in turn she told me stories about her young adult life in Vienna. When Vienna was first occupied Stella was a young mother. She said the Nazi's came in and forced the Jews to clean the streets with toothbrushes in order to humiliate them. When they came for her she had just finished washing her new baby. They told her she needed to go clean the streets and she simple looked at them and said can't you see I am busy. The SS officers' in turn looked at her and left. At first this surprised me but after getting to know Stella over those 9 hours I was not that surprised. She was one fiery woman little woman. I am not sure what it was about Stella that I loved so much it could have been that every time I fell asleep she would tickle my back (Ike you would have loved her) and every time I woke up she would smile at me and ask how I was. I personally believe it was much more then that. I have always been a firm believer that there are just some people in this world we click with. Stella was one of those people for me. When I left I gave her a small artwork I made of grandma Nola with a note and this really made her excited. She said thank you about one million times and gave me her card so if I was ever in Manhattan I could come my and see her. I waved goodbye and wished her luck on her very busy week to come. After getting off the plane I looked back to find about 20 little people just like Stella sitting in wheel chairs all on their way to he honored as holocaust survivors. I was simply blown away. Truly I was on a very special flight.
Sorry I have gone past my page mark! I promise to do my best to never do this again. But quickly I would like to say that Iasi is more beautiful then I could have dreamed it to be! I was here in the winter last time and it was just gray gray gray. Now it could not be more green green green. I love it! I have attached some picture of my apartment, which has quite the fancy bath, so you can all have a better content of where I live. Until next week I love you all very much and will hopefully have more interesting stories for you soon because with any luck they will let us into the orphanage. I am really excited to go and see my kids again.
-Elisa Thelys Bushman